In a country that is often rocked by disasters, man-made or otherwise, it is often heard and said that all citizens are inalienable components of the State’s thrust in nation-building. While hearing such words can truly make one’s spirit glow, it is only fair to provide concrete and measurable ways in which one can actually contribute to the vital but oh-so-delicate task of nation-building.
Such was the case when cadets of the UP ROTC were given the chance to visit the headquarters of the 51st Engineering Brigade in Camp General Rigoberto Atienza, Libis, Quezon City last July 14, 2012. Through the initiative of their commandant, Colonel Silvino A Alcabasa, Jr CE (GSC) PA, the cadets were given the know-hows of modern and efficient disaster and risk reduction management. They were taught that the key to effectively mitigating the effects of calamities is to be proactive in its response, rather than reactive. This means that necessary steps must be taken in order to ensure that the oncoming disaster will have minimal damage to life and property. These steps include, but are not limited to, the improvement of management infrastructures, the conduct of safety drills, and the orientation of responders and rescuers.
To further supplement their learning, a lecture on the carbon and water footprint of people and their activities was also given. While conventional wisdom would state the negative effects of the collective activities of man, this particular lecture aimed to open the eyes of the cadets to the counter-productiveness of individual acts. An example given was that the carbon and water footprints emitted or produced by eating one piece of hamburger is equivalent to those of driving a car for quite some time, for quite some distance. This, perhaps, could be another reason to start implementing austerity measures by cutting down on food intake, eh?
Disaster awareness, preparedness, readiness, and responsiveness are very much useful, but so is weapons training and familiarization. Quite a number of cadets have expressed their enthusiasm to actually hold a true-to-life rifle even before this trip, and their desire to do so was satiated as the officers and enlisted personnel of Camp Atienza were very much kind enough to lend us their service rifles. The cadets were given, metaphorically and quite literally, the nuts and bolts of the M16 assault rifle.
Oh, if an article was only sufficient to accurately depict the excitement of the cadets as they repeatedly assembled and disassembled the weapon alongside the rough-and-ready warriors (or, to be more accurate, builders) of the 51st Engineering Brigade. The theories previously taught regarding gun safety procedures were finally placed into practice as the cadets were able to get a feel of, for lack of a better term, “the real thing”. Under the ever-watchful eyes of our Republic’s soldiers, all of the cadets were able to learn first-hand the true nature of the M16.
The cycle of operation of the weapon was also explained by C2Lt Louis Anthony L Agong 2Cl, and C2Lt Ronalyn B Panlaqui 2Cl. It was in this portion of the discussion that the cadets realized that to hold the weapon is one thing, while to actually understand how it all works is quite another.
The final item in the itinerary for the day was the career talk conducted. It explored the options available to the cadets should they opt to join the Regular Army of our vigilant Armed Forces, or its Reserve Force. Along with these options came the explanation of the fundamental organization of the reserve forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as well as video clips featuring the Philippine Army, the Officer Candidate School, and the Philippine Military Academy.
However, beyond all these talks, these presentations, and these exhibitions was the bonding of the cadets. After all, ROTC is not just about ensuring that its students, cadets and officers alike, will emerge well-prepared to serve the country in the best way possible. It is also about building unity among its members. It is also about creating a sense of camaraderie among them. Whether it is by eating together on the same table, or singing songs or cracking jokes while riding the 6×6 to and fro, or by simply sitting together while listening, this feeling of comradeship is strengthened among those who learn together, who experience things together, and who, at the end of the day, are together. This unity, this friendship, and this comradeship would prove to be the most vital component in nation-building.